Black Female Panel Shares Life Stories, Lessons

Posted at 11:04 PM, Feb 17, 2018

A panel of several generations of local black women shared their experiences of life over the past 50 years and whether it has changed for the better recently.

The event was held Saturday at the Greater Nashville Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bellevue. 

The church has planned to hold a series of all-female panel forums later this year including one with all transgender women.

Clarice Rankins moderated the panelists. Rankins began the event by sharing an experience when she was a student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville during the 1960s.

Rankins recalled she was failing a philosophy course. When she asked her professor what she needed to do to pass, she shared his response. 

"He said that I didn't need to be in the class because I only had half a brain," she said.

Panelist Karen Woolridge, the great granddaughter of a slave, shared several racial experiences about growing up in Detroit, Michigan and in Nashville and Brentwood.

Panelists Karen Roberts and Candace LaFayette both read poems about women empowerment and identity that resonated with them.

Roberts grew up in rural Georgia. LaFayette, of Columbia, graduated from an historically black college and university.

The final panelist to speak was Corrine Matthews, age 84, who was one of 22 children.   

Unlike the other four panelists, Matthews joked, "They have all these degrees lined up behind their names. All I have is a degree in life. I am the 22nd child, and I didn't have what a lot of you have but I'm happy. You can call me black if you want but I'm a human being."

Their overall message -- society as a whole needs to build each other up instead of tearing people down.